Coffee / dzezve / migration

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Džezve are symbolically significant coffee pots found across the Balkan Peninsula, and in regions influenced by the Ottoman period. In Bosnia, they are often made of copper, and are etched with regionally emblematic motifs. Coffee is served in fildžan, small demitasse cups with no handle. Although most people now purchase their coffee roasted, and use electric grinders, previous generations used a large metal pan (dolaf) to roast the beans over an outdoor oven, and hand-grinding to process the beans. The handgrinder pictured below was made from salvaged stainless steel pipe.

forced migration

The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina was among a series of wars over the struggle for power in post-Cold War Yugoslavia during which half of Bosnia’s 4.5 million population was displaced and tens of thousands of women were raped (Croatia 1991-5; Bosnia 1992-5; Kosovo 1999-2000). Civilian deaths accounted for forty percent of the over 100,000 war-dead; nearly seventy percent of Muslim Bosnians killed during the war were civilians.

Of the million people who fled the country as refugees, nearly 170,000 made it to the United States, with Chicago serving as the largest relocation site for Bosnian refugees outside of Europe. St. Louis, Missouri is now home to the largest Bosnian war diaspora population in North America. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 169,000 refugees from former Yugoslavia were admitted between 1992-2012. The majority were Bosnian Muslims and Bosnians in mixed marriages, along with some Muslim Kosovars. This number also includes those who sought asylum after Germany and Austria began forcibly repatriating Bosnians in 1999.


During Ana’s research exploring the impacts of forced migration and resettlement among Bosnians in Chicago, people consistently expressed sadness that:

“No one asks us about our lives before the war.” In particular, women expressed frustration that people did not ask about their working lives: their labor. They wanted their labor at the workplace, and in the home, to be recognized.

Younger women, on the other hand, wanted their parents to talk about their experiences during the war and as immigrants in the United States. But many adults were not comfortable talking about these memories. By focusing our interviews on objects and practices, rather than on people, women were able to be more open with the younger generation.


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